When you think back, was there anything that put your child at risk for drug addiction?
No. You know, we went back to both sides of our families and there’s no drug addiction on either side. My mom had some uncles who were in the war who came back and turned into alcoholics. But we really never had any genetic component to blame it on. We drilled and drilled and drilled Jack and asked him things like was he molested? No. Did anybody ever do anything that would have caused him to be in this much pain? No. There was nothing. We’ve had numerous therapists talk to him and there’s nothing. And we can’t pinpoint what would have caused it. I could be a drug addict but I’ve never done heavy drugs like that so I don’t know if I’m prone to it. My parents had never done drugs.
Both of my children were in abusive relationships. My daughter was the victim of date rape when she was a teenager. My son was the victim of domestic violence. He was the male and the young lady was very abusive and I believe that she is the one that created his use — by his trying to escape or to be one of the crowd. He also says that marijuana was his gateway. Marijuana also helps him stay sober. I wish it were legal. We have a lot of people that have criminal sentences for marijuana. That’s just wrong. I’d put marijuana in the same category as casual alcohol. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to have criminal sentences for people who drink alcohol or have a beer with their dinner?
Drug education and prevention in our schools is something that is extremely needed. We’re getting better, but if I look back to when I was in high school, we didn’t have any prevention or any drug awareness. If we did, it was like the DARE program in elementary school. But when you cross into high school, all that stuff in elementary is forgotten about. Brady’s generation didn’t have a lot of drug awareness and education either. There was really no prevention. Every once in a while kids would hear about drinking and driving. But the kids didn’t have the awareness they needed to be educated on how dangerous prescription medications really are. They didn’t have the education on how you may start with marijuana, but it has a very good possibility of leading you into something else. And that’s kind of a firestorm debate because people say marijuana is not a gateway drug. It was a gateway drug for me. This is the best way that I can explain it: when I was using marijuana, I would build enough street credit and trust among my marijuana smoking friends so they would invite me to one of their parties. And then at that party there may be somebody who has something a little stronger than marijuana. Maybe cocaine. Maybe hydrocodone. And they may say, “Look, if you’d like to smoke some weed, you ought to incorporate this other drug with your weed.” And then if I have a positive effect with getting high, it’s got me. And I’m not saying that marijuana ever made me think, “I’m going to take some hydrocodone.” It never made me think, “I want to go snort some cocaine now.” But what it would do is lead me to a different higher-level group of individuals who would have other things to offer me. That’s the gateway, if that makes sense. And in Brady’s class, he didn’t understand how dangerous the medicine was that he was abusing.
I’m not saying that if he was educated on it that the outcome would have been any different. We don’t know. But I sure would like to rewind time and introduce him and his classmates to some hard-core education. Because realistically, some kids are going to experiment. And if we can educate them and help them understand, that’s called harm reduction. If we can provide some harm reduction to these kids, it can save lives. So going back to the question, I think one of the things was there just wasn’t enough education. And also there wasn’t enough education for parents. Even though I struggled with addiction and I knew what led me there, I didn’t have the education to help my son. It’s one thing to be an addicted parent. It’s another thing to be a sober parent who really loves and cares for your child. I had my blinders on. More education all the way around would have been great and would have helped.
Not really. That’s the scary part. It’s not like I was a bad parent and never went to her field hockey games or never gave her attention. I mean, I was around a lot and it’s not like I’m not a demonstrative person. I’m the demonstrative one. I’m the one who gives the hugs and kisses and says “I love you.” That’s the scary part about this whole thing—she basically had it all together.
With Riley I should have been firmer. She was just a really tough kid to raise. She was so defiant all the time. And I would lose control with her like none of the other kids because it was just always a battle. And now, I mean, she’s just such a wonderful person. She has grown and she’s done a lot of self-discovery. She’s an avid reader. We’ve sent her so many books. She’s reading a lot of self-improvement books and a lot of books about drugs and healing.
With Bailey, I spent a lot of the last six months of her senior year taking care of my mom. My sister was drinking then and the reason I finally stayed with my mom was because one time I just knew something was wrong. So I drove up there. My sister’s car was in the driveway. I went in with the garage code. My sister was passed out with a bottle of booze in the bed next to my mom. It was a mess. And that’s when I stayed there.
So I stayed there a lot over the last six months of Bailey’s high school career. Did that really screw things up? I don’t know.
And our divorce, I don’t want to blame their father. Maybe if we could have figured things out earlier on. It got to be where we hated each other more than we loved our children in some of the battles. And that’s just wrong. It’s wrong. People know that more now than they did back then. If I could do anything in my life differently I would have tried to handle that differently. But he was an ass. He was just hard to deal with. Anyway, I’m sure I had my issues too.
Travis: My father was an alcoholic. My mother struggled with alcoholism. Both of Shelly’s grandfathers were alcoholics. Just like we pass down the cancer gene, we pass down the addiction gene. There’s no doubt in my mind that we have the gene.
Shelly: As I look back, Tyler struggled with anxiety and stress from a very early age. Probably around age five or six he started having night terrors. We had to take him to the doctor because he would get an upset stomach. Finally we realized it was just stress. So anxiety and not having coping skills were part of this.
Travis: Listen. I made a lot of mistakes. And coping skills … I don’t know if we did a great job at teaching those to Ty.
Shelly: We didn’t.
Christy – Looking back, when Tyler did something, he did it at 200%. Excessively. Even wanting something … he wanted a certain kind of skates, “Bob something” skates when he was 12. He would ask and ask and ask and ask. And I would say no, not right now. They are expensive. And he would keep asking.
He was a good student. He would take something as a challenge and work so hard to be the best at what he wanted to be. For football that was definitely the case.
Wayne – And it didn’t matter. If it was skateboarding as a kid, he had to build a skateboard ramp. He had to practice and be Tony Hawk. And then when he played a guitar and he got a band, he built a stage in the garage. Then came sports in high school and he would come home from school and practice and he would be exhausted and you would hear him jumping rope in the driveway at 9pm at night. Which makes no sense. Those are all signs of a relentless pursuit, this pleasure sensor in your brain, your reward system.
Christy – Looking back and thinking hard about it, the only thing Wayne and I have found … is that Tyler’s drive was maybe an addictive personality. And we don’t know that for sure. And we’re not saying that everyone that has that drive has an addictive gene. But maybe that is a sign. Maybe that is something to look for. And what we’ve noticed is people in recovery, especially men, will start to work out. They replace their addiction with a new addiction. Their new addiction is working out all of the time.
Wayne – It’s real simple once you can step back and look at what you are dealing with. I was at a seminar and I was one of the speakers and a female judge came from Cincinnati and she said her father was an alcoholic and my brother was a drug addict and I am a work-aholic. She said one of them is acceptable and the other ones aren’t. She said she can’t be married. She said she wakes up at 3 am works. And she said that her addiction is acceptable for an employer, but that she is no different from her brother and father. I thought that was interesting.
So … they do things excessively. And probably when Tyler crossed the line with opiates, he realized he could play injured and this could help him easily get through that.
Christy – I compare Tyler to our other two boys. They were athletic and did sports, but they weren’t driven like him. They loved football. They played it. But they didn’t go that extra mile to be better and better and better.
Wayne – Tyler would take his body through physical and mental fatigue and there would be games where he would be physically shaking from exhaustion. He would take his body to extreme points. He had the personality of never giving up when you say “no”. He viewed your “no” as a “maybe” and he would come back and ask again tomorrow. That drive was relentless.